Archive for August 18th, 2017

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Perceptions and interpretations – The political Autumn, Ukraine

August 18, 2017

With the Verkhovna Rada set to return in September for the final political season of the year, it will bring with it the official unofficial pre-election electioneering that will wearily grind on throughout 2018 without bring to the fore any politician remotely popular for the presidency, nor indeed is it likely to produce a much needed change to the election laws forcing the opening of party lists relating to the proportional representation system that would produce the possibility of a better Verkhovna Rada.

The electorate is likely to be faced with the same tired faces and the same party lists stuffed with party apparatchiks, faux loyalists, insider dealers, corruptioneers, criminals, and those in desperate need of retaining parliamentary immunity (and impunity).

President Poroshenko, if opinion polls be any guide, will need to do what no Ukrainian president has ever accomplished before – reverse his declining approval ratings.  (Only former President Kuchma managed to “flat line” his ratings toward the end of his second and constitutionally obligatory last term.)

That said, President Poroshenko is yet to confirm he will run for a second term, but on the presumption that he will, (and with a requirement thereafter to insure a second round vote against a rival he can be sure of beating), such is the apparent gap in opinion poll ratings that it remains within his ability to reverse them – but there are only two ways to do so effectively.

The first is to finally seize the opportunity to become a Statesman that will go down in history as a genuinely reformist president, visibly overriding his own vested interests, by driving forward reform at a far swifter rate and insuring reform consolidation making them (almost) irreversible – even when those reforms significantly impede upon his vested interests and of those around him.  This would clearly require an amount of political bravery and selflessness as yet unseen within the Ukrainian political class – ever.

The second way is to employ the State administrative system to inflate his influence and constrain those of his opponents.  To do this it is necessary to do so with no small measure of maskirovka and corrosive political technology in order to avoid deafening internal and external cries of foul play that will be universal and that will stick, whilst simultaneously retaining sufficient internal elite support.

If the opportunity to genuinely reform both the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and create an Anti-Corruption Court are any guide – notwithstanding the political control by Yuri Lutesnko over the Prosecutor’s Office, the complete failure to address the CEC issues, and a clear reluctance to address the electoral laws are any guide, then the President intends to run and at the very least, to be charitable, having at his disposal the State administrative system and a malleable, politically influenced institutional and legislative structure.

But how to go about it?

There are successes about which he can rightly trumpet of course, but they will have lost much of their political weight before 2019 elections.  Familiarity brings contempt – and there is still so much to do and little faith in political promises.  Come polling day he will be judged by many only as well as his last reform – or the lack of it.

So painting with broad brush strokes, and deliberately framing matters within the grey thus leaving a reader to decide between options one or two above (though they are not necessarily always mutually exclusive) what should a reader look for from the Autumn onward by way of preparatory acts?

Obviously there is a need to keep a watchful eye upon the media – as prompted by the recent acquisition of Expresso TV by former Prime Minister and People’s Front party leader Arseny Yatseniuk, and the wives of People’s Front politicians Arsen Avakov and Nikolai Knyazhytsky.

Clearly this acquisition was not made in an effort to save the People’s Front from almost certain evisceration and  political death at the ballot box.

It has either been bought, as carrot or stick, for Mr Yatseniuk to insure that his best people are included in any merger with the Poroshenko Party list (though given the Poroshenko party reduced polling numbers it could only accommodate 15 – 20 People’s Front favorites without pushing out some necessary Poroshenko favorites in the process come election day results) by providing pro-Poroshenko editorial coverage.

That, or it will become a vehicle for a reincarnation of the Yatseniuk/Avakov/Turchynov favoured People’s Front politicians under a new brand in the hope of attracting some other reasonably popular/well known and not entirely odious political figures – Prime Minister Groisman for example (who will increasingly need to see reforms through that encroach upon the vested interests of the presidential circle)..

Whatever the case, most of the owners of national media are within reach of, and likely to provide at the very least neutral, and generally favourable coverage of the President – as the above clip displays.   (A reader need not understand what is said, but simply view who owns what in the diagrams.)

President Poroshenko has a very reasonable relationship with Rinat Akhmetov, is quite amicable as far as Viktor Pinchuk is concerned,  News One by hook or by crook can be brought on side (or bought off) via the ever transactional Vadim Rabinovych.  Ihor Kolomoisky is in a precarious position where court cases may appear – or not.  Even if they appear, those cases can be delayed for innumerable reasons until statute barred.  Indeed it may be only the Firtash/Liovochkin owned Inter that will prove to be negative toward the president (and thus ironically provide a platform for the likes of Tymoshenko).

There is also the regional/local media stations to keep an eye on – for they are owned by the regional and local political class (a microcosm of the national media picture).  The allegiances of the regional and local elites will thus be clear from the positions of the local media coverage.  (In fact the blog can predict now the pro and anti-Presidential local channels in Odessa based upon their political owners.)

There is also the matter of individual politicians, journalists, NGOS and civil activists that may be viewed as far too critical (sometimes rightly, other times not) by The Bankova.  Already unsettling rumour circulates of illicit phone tapping and SBU “chats” occurring not only among the domestic but also some foreign persons that would fall into such a category.  That said, it is possible to take a “big tent” view of these incidents, thus acknowledging they may occur without instruction from the innermost sanctum – or not – if a reader so choose.

With regard to the politicians, then another attempt by Yuri Lutsenko to strip immunity of an increasingly large number of parliamentarians is perhaps to be considered.

Long overdue are the prosecution of parliamentarians such as Mykola Skoryk (for among other things when Governor orchestrating the beating of 20 journalists in 2014, at the very least attempting to enable the Glazyev playbook in Odessa, and latterly the behind the curtain games leading up to the 2nd May tragedy in Odessa).  There are also simply common criminals such as Evgeny Dade.  There will be at least one or two from every region that should rightly be facing prosecution for nefarious deeds conducted now, or in recent history.

However, among those that may appear upon any new PGO list, a watchful eye for those that are predominantly thorns in the presidential side, rather than the most actively corrupt, need be kept.

Equally, the absence of those that clearly should be on a prosecutor’s list (such as Pashinsky) but almost certainly will not be are of equal note.

Naturally any notion of MPs finally removing their own absolute immunity is unlikely under such circumstances.  A climate of self-survival may well seep across all party lines sufficiently well to frustrate Yuri Lutsenko as a result.  Very few MPs would see votes that allowed criminal prosecution, and allowed for arrest, and allowed for detention (it requires 3 votes to achieve all 3 levels of immunity removal).

Nevertheless, the members of the Verkhovna Rada may well be more receptive to the will of the Presidential Administration (read President) as a result of any such list.

Once again, those that do become the sacrificial lambs still have the opportunity to have their cases stalled (and eventually statute barred), or deliberately sabotaged, or receive a sentence far less than proportionate to their crimes, if unfortunate enough to be nominated for to trial prior to elections.

In short, when it comes to preparatory pre-election electioneering from a presidential perspective, for the remainder of the year and well into the next, a watchful eye upon the media and/or editorial policy, individual journalists, civil activists, NGOs (particularly corruption and/or rule of law), the rejuvenation of CEC and election laws, and the “prosecutors list” is worth while.

A reader will then be left to ponder upon their own perceptions and interpretations of the events that will probably soon begin to occur once the Verkhovna Rada returns.  Option 1, President Poroshenko finally seizing the opportunity to become a Statesman that will go down in history as a genuinely reformist president regardless of his own vested interests?  Option 2, employing the State administrative system to inflate his influence and constrain those of his opponents (behind maskirovka that may appear convincing or otherwise)?  Option 3, a mixture of both (despite the ever decreasing lack of reform wiggle room to do so)?

Time will soon begin to tell.

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